A burning issue

IT seems that not everybody knows this, but burning waste at home or at your business premises is illegal and subject to prosecutions. The practice is often referred to as 'backyard burning', and includes burning rubbish in a barrel or exposed heap. It also covers the use of 'home incinerators', be it in the backyard, the workplace or the farmyard.

During the building boom it was also a problem on many building sites throughout the county, although the latter has obviously decreased dramatically.

Modern day waste has many toxic chemicals in it. Paper waste may contain synthetic materials, preservatives and even plastics. Disposable nappies contain gels, bleaches and plastics. Many wood products are treated with toxic chemicals to prevent rot. Burning of such wastes in low-temperature, uncontrolled fires will create toxic and dangerous by-products which are not destroyed by the fire but become airborne on soot particles.

These can end up being inhaled out of the air or deposited onto surrounding soil and vegetation where they can readily enter the food chain.

Many people may think that they are doing the right thing by reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and saving money but they are both causing long term environmental pollution and interfering with the lives of others living in their area.

Burning waste in your home or garden can damage your health, as well as that of your children and your neighbours. Such illegal practices are the main cause of dioxins in our air in Ireland. It is claimed that 40 families burning waste in their backyards create more air pollution that an industrial incinerator for over 100,000 people.

In September 2009, a law concerning waste disposal by burning came into force.

These regulations, the Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 (SI No. 286 of 2009) make explicit the offence of disposal of waste by uncontrolled burning and prohibits such disposal within the curtilage of a dwelling.

Failure to comply with these regulations is an offence and fines of up to €3,000 may be imposed. If your neighbour or someone else you see is illegally burning waste, then in the interest of your own health and the environment, please report the incident to the Local Authority Enforcement Team at 066-7162000.

Farmers are the only group who have an exemption and the derogation has recently been extended to Jan 2016.

However, the materials allowed for burning is very limited. The only waste types which may be burned, and then only as a last resort are: uncontaminated wood, trees, tree trimmings, leaves, brush or other similar waste generated by agricultural practices. Under no circumstances should any other waste types, including household or other farm wastes, be burned.

Farmers also have to ensure that adequate measures will be taken to limit the overall nuisance or possibilities for endangering human health or causing environmental pollution. Farmers are not allowed the use of any accelerants in the disposal of the above waste types.

It should also be noted that the in-situ burning of un-cut gorse, heather, grass or any other vegetation is not covered by the notification, and may be subject to other restriction or requirements. For example, the burning of such material is prohibited between March 1 and August 31.

Finally, it is important for farmers to be aware of fire safety requirements to ensure that you, your property and that of your neighbours is not endangered when burning.